The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round…Except When They Don’t

In the 3+ weeks that we’ve been in Nicaragua, I’ve ridden more school buses than I think I have in the rest of my life combined. You see, I was a car rider when I was in school, so I only hopped aboard school buses for field trips. But in Nicaragua, the good ol’ Blue Bird school bus is the standard mode of transport. If you’ve ever wondered what happened to the bright yellow bus of your childhood, well, my friend, it’s been reincarnated in Nicaragua. And it’s seeing things it’s never seen before.

For starters, it’s seeing way more people onboard than it ever thought possible. You think those seats are made for two people in each one? Ha, think again. Three minimum. And that’s three adults. If you’ve got kids, you can fit way more than three. And what was that nonsense about keeping the aisles clear. No, sirree, the aisles aren’t for safe passage. They are for jamming with people. As many as can fit. We’re a friendly people here. Your hand smooshed up against her boob is no problem at all.

The modest school bus is also seeing life as a courier of not just people, but things. Have a bike you need to get to another town? Just throw it up on top. Want to take 50 lb bags of rice to your village? Those go in the back. Smelly fish? A chicken? An entire trunkload of goods you want to sell at market? No problem. Wherever they can fit is just fine.

Oh and about that no drinking and eating rule. That was just a joke. Eat and drink all you want. Eat the corn cakes that the lady hawks to you at the station. Drink the sodas served in plastic bags that the young boy who got on last stop and will get off next stop is shoving in your face. Then when you’re done with your chips and your candies, your plaintains and your refrescoes, just throw the trash out the window. I mean, it’s not like there’s a trash can on the bus and who would even think of holding on to it all the way to your destination.

And while we’re throwing rules (and trash) out the window, the one about walking while the bus is in motion can go. If you can’t walk around while the driver drives, then how can you make sure the entire bus hears your infomercial on protractors or Icy Hot? And don’t bother waiting for the bus to come to a complete stop before exiting or entering. You might not get to get on or off if you do that. The bus has a schedule you know…though maybe you don’t, since the bus has probably never shown up when the schedule said it would.

But hey, just wait…seriously, just wait, it will come. It always comes. Well, okay, almost always. Just not that one time when it broke down in the road only about 2 km from where you were waiting for it for an hour past when it was supposed to come. But hey, like the bus driver said, when you saw him under the hood of the bus as you rode past in the back of the pick-up truck that transported you instead, the bus was still coming. You just needed to wait a little longer. And then, as always, you would have a most excellent experience on the Nicaraguan transport of choice…the good ol’ Blue Bird school bus.

9 Replies to “The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round…Except When They Don’t”

  1. Man, that sounds way more exciting than trips on the bus to the Science Center. We need to live life on the edge here a little more.

    Hope everything is still going well.

  2. I may have missed it, but it seems the only “childhood bus reference” you missed was the permission slip. Insurance seems to be the lowest of concerns for those buses in their new lives.

  3. According to my friend who served in Nicaragua as a Peace Corps volunteer, you never want to sit behind a baby on the school bus. Apparently, diapers are often optional, too and baby just gets held outto drip on the floor. You can imagine what then happens when the bus goes up an incline.

    On a more positive note, my friend heaped praise on the first class overnight buses from Nicaragua to neighboring countries- cheap, clean and (relatively) efficient.

  4. Thanks for the details of what it is like for an American to experience all of that. Being Honduran because of my parents, thats all too familiar for me and often, I just look at it and laugh when I go down there. My dad has shipped a few school buses down there for that same reason.

    You provided a different point of view of a region where that is something you need to see to believe, and a good one at that.

  5. I remember in Honduras the locals throwing the trash out the windows & it was sooo infuriating that they didn’t seem to respect their beautiful landscape more. Dave, my friend, tried to explain it to me, but I still don’t get it. We always opted for hitch hiking… definitely more of an adventure- we even got picked up by a semi delivering beer once- very comfy & convenient!

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